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Longstreet faithful gather to tidy hotel
C.J. Clarke IV cleans under the Piedmont Hotel during a day of cleaning Saturday around the historic Gainesville hotel. - photo by Tom Reed

Members of the Longstreet Society gathered Saturday morning at the historical Piedmont Hotel to help clean, rake and mow around the hotel once owned by one of Gainesville’s most famous residents, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet.

The group first had breakfast at the Longstreet Cafe, then moved on to the hotel to start working.

One of the guests of honor was Lt. Col. Harold Knudsen, an Army officer stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. In 2007, he wrote a short book on the hotel’s former owner, "General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Modern General."

"It’s a modern military man’s analysis of some of the bigger battles that show some methods that he used that became more standard facets of war in the 20th century," Knudsen said.

This was the second time Knudsen had come to the Piedmont Hotel to help clean up.

"I enjoy seeing the progress being made here and the improvements," he said.

Knudsen and Richard Pilcher, president of the Longstreet Society, stayed at the hotel Friday night in hopes of a run-in with the ghost of Longstreet.

The Longstreet Society was formed in 1994 to honor the life of the Civil War general who settled in Gainesville in 1875 and died in his adopted hometown in 1904.

"Our membership is
scattered all around the world," Pilcher said. "We have about 300 members. There are even members in Europe. There is an unlimited amount of people with this interest."

The Piedmont Hotel is one of five historical sites in Gainesville marking Longstreet’s life, including his home and his burial site at Alta Vista Cemetery.

Visitors can tour the hotel on Maple Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays. They can visit the room where President Woodrow Wilson and his wife stayed, and where their daughter, Jesse Woodrow Wilson, was born.

There also is a library full of books on the Civil War, including Knudsen’s, and Longstreet Society T-shirts for sale.

For more information on the Piedmont Hotel or the Longstreet Society, visit its Web site,